By Jo Haemer
Soldering is considered an art by most jewelers. And many would also agree that within that art, one of the trickier skills to master is soldering bezel settings. Try the following tips when working with bezels:
• When you’re trying to solder a bezel closed, is there anything worse than having it spring apart? This can occur when the seam has too much pressure on it. To prevent this from happening, always anneal the bezel after you shape it, and again before you solder it. Using a soft flame, as you heat the bezel you can often see it pull apart and then relax back into its original position. Once that happens, tighten your flame and solder.
• If you have to solder a small bezel onto a larger piece, it’s important to remember that anything that takes a long time to heat up will also take a long time to cool off. After fluxing the two parts and placing the solder pallions, use a soft flame and wave it back and forth over the piece. As you move the torch, the small part is going hot, cold, hot, cold, while the larger base is slowly getting warmer. Finally, when the flux tells you it’s time to solder, tighten the flame a bit and concentrate it where you want the solder to flow.
• When I need to hold a bezel in place for soldering, I like to raise three or four beads with a graver on the inside bottom edge of the bezel, where it meets the metal base. To hold the bezel in place long enough to raise the beads, I use a few drops of superglue. Having learned the hard way, I first dispense the glue onto a disposable surface before using a broken saw blade to apply a drop or two to the bezel. Otherwise you could end up with a big gluey mess, and possibly your fingers glued to the project. Once the bezel is in place, you can raise the beads to secure the bezel for soldering. Just don’t forget to remove them when you’re done so the stone will have a level seat.